LJUBNO, Slovenia With top World Cup results this past weekend in Ljubno, the U.S. Women's Ski Jumping Team is more confident than ever heading into World Championships this week in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
The U.S. women placed five in the top 13 in Saturday's event, one of their strongest performances as a team all season. All five are Park City residents.
"I am sure we are ready for World Championships right now," said Coach Paolo Bernardi. "We are ready for every single jump."
Sarah Hendrickson posted second- and third-place finishes on a difficult, old-style hill that many ski jumpers refer to as the "roller coaster." Jessica Jerome continued to build on her recent successes with a sixth and a seventh. Lindsey Van stayed true to her consistent ways with a fifth and an eighth. Alissa Johnson (12th and 19th) and Abby Hughes (13th and 22nd) were also strong. Japan's Sara Takanashi had a double victory to secure the overall World Cup title with two events still remaining this season.
"Ljubno is not my hill, typically. I tend to struggle here," Hendrickson said. "But today (Sunday), technically my takeoff was good and I'm very confident and satisfied with that, especially on my final jump today."
Bernardi said the Ljubno jump is one of a kind, "a really old hill and you still need to use a lot of power. We know our team is well-trained and powerful and can handle the days when there is strong wind here."
Jerome said she feels a lot more confident in her jumping than she did a month ago.
"There are some small technicalities that I need to fix and I'm looking forward to working on that," she said. "I'm very optimistic as we head into World Champs."
The 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships get under way on Wednesday with the Opening Ceremony. The women's individual ski-jumping event is Friday, Feb. 22, and the mixed team event is Sunday, Feb. 24.
Val di Fiemme is the hometown of Coach Bernardi, and he's hosted the team there for two training camps in the past year.
"I think we know the Val di Fiemme hill better than some of the other teams going into World Championships," Jerome said. "It's a great hill and you can jump far on a good day. But it is notorious for tailwind, which we definitely don't want."
A contingent of family, friends and supporters is making the trek to Italy for the event familiar faces welcomed wholeheartedly by the ski jumpers, who have been on the road competing for weeks.
"We are all excited and looking forward to see all of our friends and family. They will be a big boost for us," Jerome said.
With just two World Cup events remaining in the season, the U.S. team leads the Nations Cup race with 1,905 points. Slovenia, sitting in second with 1,833 points, is closing the gap. Japan is in third with 1,741 points.
The final two World Cup events are in Norway Trondheim on March 15 and Oslo on March 17.
Women's Normal Hill - HS95
(with wind system calculation)
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013
1. Sara Takanashi, JPN, (89.5 meters, 92) 266.9
2. Coline Mattel, FRA, (87, 87) 243.3
3. Sarah Hendrickson, USA, (85.5, 88) 241.8
5. Lindsey Van, USA, (86, 86) 236.9
7. Jessica Jerome, USA, (81, 82) 235.1
19. Alissa Johnson, USA (81, 82) 213.8
22. Abby Hughes, USA (80, 82.5) 213.2
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013
1. Sara Takanashi, JPN, (88.5 meters, 88) 225.1
2. Sarah Hendrickson, USA, (85, 83.5) 214.2
3. Coline Mattel, FRA, (84, 84) 212.1
6. Jessica Jerome, USA, (82, 82.5) 201.9
8. Lindsey Van, USA, (81.5, 79.5) 197.8
12. Alissa Johnson, USA (78, 79.5) 189.2
13. Abby Hughes, USA (77.5, 79.5) 187.8